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Why I Think Dairy Supply Management is Important

Jean L Clavelle

Let me begin by saying that this is an incredibly complex issue. To be truthful I do not fully understand how supply management impacts international trade or even really the nuts and bolts of the supply manager system itself so I will not discuss that here (Dairy Farmers of Canada have produced some fantastic background information http://www.dairyfarmers.ca/content/download/1164/13161/version/2/file/Economic-Rationale2011_EN.pdf on the economics of supply management if you would like to know more). Despite my ignorance, I do think dairy supply management is incredibly important to dairy producers and Canadian consumers.  And I want to attempt an explanation of why from the perspective of a consumer not as someone with a dairy background (which I do not have).

Under this system producers are paid a fair price

Producers are paid a fair price

Many have critiqued this system but it seems they have oversimplified and under complicated the issue to the extreme.  It had been said that supply management isn’t good for the producer or for the consumer.  But I think ‘they’ are wrong.

So what is supply management?  Supply management controls the volume of milk produced on a provincial and annual basis. Provincial boards manage the milk supply to coincide with demand for their products.  By effectively controlling production, expensive and costly surpluses are avoided.  A price is then set by a federally managed board based on cost of production, consumer price index and multiple other factors.  Not just anyone can supply milk either, dairy producers purchase quota essentially for the right to sell milk. Without quota no one can legally sell milk.

So why do I think it’s important?  Well, the objective of supply management is two fold 1. to provide Canadian consumers with an adequate supply of the product at reasonable prices and 2. to provide efficient producers with fair returns.  And that is the crux of my argument.  Under this system producers are paid a fair price.

Did you know that dairy producers work every single day to take care of their animals?  Every.  Single.  Day.  Cows need to be fed, milked, cared for first thing in the morning and last thing during the day.  Many of us who are not primary producers work hard but how many of us can say that we work every day?  And not only are they just going to work, they are providing a significant component of our diet.  A nutritious healthy and satisfying component.  Why would we not want to protect this, why would we want to essentially bite the hand that feeds us?

Under this system producers can expect to make some reasonable (although not excessive) profit and with proper management and work they do not need to worry about bankruptcy.  This allows them to make an income where they can invest back into their farms, invest in management skills, animal comfort, veterinary care and training of farm help.  Things that are important to me as a consumer.

Ok, so perhaps I am guilty of over simplifying the issue too.  But out of all of the issues surrounding dairy supply management to me this is the most important.  Having producers paid a fair return for their hard work ensures positive animal welfare and a steady healthy supply of dairy products for Canadian consumers.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 25th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Animal care,Consumers,Dairy cattle,Regulations,Uncategorized
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